Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Gathering Autumn at South Henns

Gathering Autumn at South Henns


The hilltops mottle
and moult their
Summer pasture

The soil-shed July grass
- spent blades of an
army in scattered retreat -
is carried downwind
on erratic gusts
into the widening valley
greening the ravelled currents
of the Gribb

The river that now
surges with reaffirmed urgency
on its three-quarter mile
homestretch towards
an inundated coastline.

For a few days
the shingle beach
resembles a freshly cut lawn.

The North Sea floods the horizon.


The olive groves
that line both sides
of the B road
in and out
of South Henns
begin to ripen in June.

The smooth pale bark,
thin enough to be peeled
with a fingernail, exposing
damp fibrous green wood,
darkens with permanent shadow.

By August the swollen crop
has turned violet.

Bill Crane, who since
his stroke last March,
can no longer raise a
water glass to his lips
without spilling the
trembling contents
down his immaculate shirtfront,
coordinates the harvest
through his proxy
- 28 years married this October.

Most of the yield is
pressed to make oil,
bottled in slender
lilac-tinted glass
manufactured in Tuscany,
and straw-packed
in wooden crates.

In September the lorry
from the supermarket
inches between the
towering inclined hedgerows
that trench the lane.

The seventh pressing
is held in reserve
for the last week of October
- dutifully set ablaze
in ironstone burners
that date to the 1700s.

A ring of flickering beacons
circling Drew’s Spinney
radiates a lingering
blue-grey oil haze
that stills the trees
and calms the hives.

The spirit that dwells
within the heartwood
will not quiet itself
says local legend.

The PhD student
who visited in 2008
and camped for two months
in the divoted paddock
at the foot of the graveyard
claimed this rite of appeasement
contributes to a
derangement of the soil
and denigrates the natural order.

I saw him last
standing at the bar
of The Plough
(named for the constellation)
draughting home-brewed cider
in long gulps
- opaque clouds, the
colour of bruised pear flesh,
circulating with the
ponderous looming threat
of an impending stormfront
from behind the raised porthole
of a glass-bottomed pewter tankard.

For the duration of his visit
the dulled stein dangled by its
exaggerated ear-shaped handle
from a loose hook
pitched 45 degrees forward
in a worn-out nail hole
bored into 16th century timber.

The sour alcoholic fruit fug
that loitered around the place
overpowering the smell of beer
recalling its local origins
as a cascade of rust-tinged windfalls
lock-stepped in creeping ferment,
shoring-up one corner
of the wood store
at Lingard’s Farm.

Gathering punch drunk wasps
around the rotten keyhole
that staggered in mid-flight
weighted down in
the cloying miasma.

Carried with the
bucket din of the
hourly church bell and the
endlessly wheeling birdsong
on the sweet ash of dusk
that dims the heads of corn
and unifies the tarnished crop
in silhouette

- a solid swaying mass
harbouring a sound
equivalent in volume
to its acreage.
The surface hiss grounded
to a deeper earthbound rumble
of root and stem,
flattening under its own weight,
pressed into two dimensions
like turbid water
running on the spot.
The steady low roar
of an approaching wave
that never breaks.